2 vs. 3 kids?

My partner and I are considering trying to have a third child. We always envisioned having a large family but the realities of life with two kids has us thinking hard about whether we’d like to try to expand our brood. In addition to the cost of having three kids and the challenges of pregnancy and the postpartum period, we’re particularly concerned about the limits of time and energy on our parenting - essentially, whether we’ll be able to be good enough parents to three kids. 

We’d love to hear from parents of 3 (or more) kids about what life is like for their families and their views in hindsight about having their third (or later) kid(s). Is there an age spacing you’ve seen work well? Pros or things that went well? Regrets or things you wish you’d have done differently? Suggestions about what we should be thinking about as we make this decision?

We’re also curious to hear from grown individuals who had two or more siblings about any of the above.

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RE: 2 vs. 3 kids? ()

I am the last of 4 kids, the eldest only 7 years older. In my experience it was wonderful having so many siblings. Our parents were . . . not such good parents, so we relied on each other for everything. Now we are 62 to 69, and still hold our sibs close to our hearts. 

RE: 2 vs. 3 kids? ()

We have 3, and for the most part I love it - both my husband and I come from families without a lot of other people in our generation, so I kind of felt like having 3 gave our kids some "critical mass" for the future. We have 2 older kids who are close in age and then a gap before the youngest, and that seems to have helped make things a little less crazy - the older two are more self-sufficient, and there wasn't much jealousy, although sometimes the youngest drives the older ones crazy just because his energy level is different than theirs. I love watching our kids hang out together, and I like the "big" family feel (although 3 seems to be pretty common these days). The cons to consider: One of my personal pet peeves is that everything from muffins to hotel rooms is geared towards groups of 4, so a family of 5 can be awkward from that standpoint. And there will be times when you need to be 3 places at once and there are only 2 grownups, and you'll have to farm someone out. And 2 of my kids have to share a room because our house isn't huge. And of course you're paying for an extra airplane ticket/food/shoes/college. But despite those things I'd definitely have number 3 again if given the choice - our family just feels complete now.

RE: 2 vs. 3 kids? ()

We just had our third at the start of the year and we couldn’t be happier to have him. Our kids are 2 years apart so fairly close in age. Of course, you’ll love the kid, but beyond that a few benefits of having a third include:

  • We let go of some unnecessary expectations which has actually meant less stress than when we had two - we don’t feel overly pressured to put all the kids in activities throughout the week because we can’t afford it so we just pick one each and that fills the schedule
  • our older two have really built some independence (especially the middle kid) because we aren’t around to do everything or can’t immediately jump up - we discovered that the can find ways to do things like get their own water and snacks using chairs or asking each other for help and do a better job of finding ways to be entertained
  • Our middle has really come into her own since the baby was born - her language improved, she potty trained herself (seriously, she made a declaration she was done with diapers and she has followed through), she loves finding responsibility in being a big sister which is a whole new side to her

some challengers of having three: 

  • the house is loud all the time - this took some getting used to but now it’s eerily quiet when one or more are gone so this is less of a drawback than it felt in the beginning
  • space is tight and all three kids share a room which means they sometimes sleep and sometimes don’t; they also share other resources like our time and attention, our money, etc. there are some economies of scale, but the cost does still go up (like childcare)
  • the big kids play with toys that are seemingly bags full of perfectly choking size so our latest challenge is finding ways to separate the baby from older toys. We spend a lot of time digging in the baby’s mouth for small parts he may or may not have found
  • although the older kids have growing independence, they are still young and require quite a bit of attention. “Mom” is yelled out no less than once per minute by one kid or another and my personal space is no longer my own. Luckily, my husband and I are good at tagging in and out when one of us is nearing the end of their rope 

We’re enjoying it so much we’re contemplating a fourth! Good luck with your decision!

RE: 2 vs. 3 kids? ()

I am one of three siblings, spaced 2.5 years between each. I think it went well because:

1. The oldest started kindergarten just as the youngest was born, thus there were basically only two kids at a time at home.

2. Same with college costs, the oldest was graduating just as the youngest was starting, thus only two kids at a time with college costs.

3. One weekend day our parents split us up, one parent would take one kid on an age-appropriate activity, and the other parent would take two to do something else, that way each kid got some dedicated time with one or the other parent, and two parents weren't going crazy chasing after three kids. We did do more simple activities, such as go to Tilden park, as an entire family.

4. Our mother was extremely fair, with time, attention, and money; I think she kept a spreadsheet to make sure. I really think this kept down sibling rivalry and us siblings have pretty much always gotten along.

5. Cons were that some two always had to share a bedroom, we switched around every year or so. No vacations that called for air travel, with 5 people that was too expensive. No fancy anything, very basic groceries and no meals out. No trendy teenage clothes. We all started working during high school.

Overall it was pretty fun growing up as one of three siblings, especially when we got to be teenagers and we were partners in crime (ha ha)

RE: 2 vs. 3 kids? ()

I’m one of four. The plus is we were connected as children, the minus was that my parents didn’t have the emotional or financial resources for three, let alone four (one was born quite a while after the rest. ) Three on us had one child families and the other did not have children. When I was younger I resented having to do so much in terms of chores and helping the others. We are not close now, though we keep in touch. 

RE: 2 vs. 3 kids? ()

I am one of three, as well as mama to three. My older two are two years apart and the third trails along four years younger than my middle. That is a spacing that has worked well because the older two gained independence as I was taking care of the baby (who is now in middle school, by the way). I love that our dinner table is full, even if one child is out. I love that nobody is ever lonely, because there is always someone around. I love that my 6th grade daughter can hold her own with senior boys and my senior boy (and most of his friends) can hang with a middle schooler. Yes, our house feels crowded and oh my gosh, are three kids expensive! We've had perhaps just three vacations involving airplanes in the past 11 years, because 5 tickets cost a lot! Hotel rooms can be awkward and often someone has to ride alone on the roller coaster, but I love having a busy, biggish family and am delighted that my kids will have not just one, but two sibs in their lives when we, their parents, are gone.

RE: 2 vs. 3 kids? ()

I am one of 3. My brother who is the middle child is an alcoholic and has many other problems. I love him but we will likely never be close bc of his disease. I thank god for my little sister who is my close friend and who helps me deal with the family craziness and share the joy. 

RE: 2 vs. 3 kids? ()

I have three children. I wanted a third because my oldest daughter REALLY wanted a baby sister (our middle one is a boy). I have loved the activities I've done with them. the third one has done a lot of different things the oldest two didn't (like crew, ice scating, kickboxing) and being part of that is fun, as well as three sets of parents and kids to got to know. The downside is that now, with the oldest at 22 years old, I am quite DONE with parenting. What was GREAT is that my youngest did a school year abroad last year as a junior in High School. Those 9 months were great for me to recharge. 

RE: 2 vs. 3 kids? ()

I am a mother of three (7.5, 5.5 and 2 yrs old) and I have two siblings to whom I am super close.  The challenges that I anticipated when having a third kid in terms of not having enough energy/time/attention for all three came to pass but have been much less of an issue that I thought they would be.  For example, having less attention for the older two when the youngest was a baby meant they became more self-sufficient - not that they felt unloved or neglected. And adding a siblings has brought more love/attention into all our lives - our two older see the youngest as a playmate and source of fun and attention now that she is a bit older and looks to them for laughs and excitement after school. As parents, we are tired (someone is always up a night for some reason - baby wake ups, teething, nightmares, rolled off bed...) and it is loud but I imagine it would be all those things anyway.  We try to give the kids some one on one time with a parent which really "fills their cup" as they say.  We thought about this decision for almost a year - going back and forth. In the end, I really really wanted a bigger family and we have found the transition to 3 easier than the transition from 1 to 2. We joke that we would even have another because of how fun it has been having this little person come into our lives. And for some insane reason my kids ask for a fourth!

RE: 2 vs. 3 kids? ()

I’m the oldest of 3, with a sister who is less than two years younger than me, and a brother who is 7 years younger than me. My parents having my brother was nothing but positive for me and my sister. We helped with the caregiving and loved having a baby around. When he was 3 my mom went back to school and eventually back to work, so we did more and more to help with him, and I think that was great for us. I think is was a little harder for my brother to have us leave when we went to college or started spending a lot of time out of the house in high school. But overall I’m super thankful to have 2 siblings!